Tips for Tackling New Product Challenges
On September 19-20, 2005, in Oak Brook, Ill., Prepared Foods held its first annual conference dedicated to providing technical, application-oriented information for formulators and others involved in product development. Over the next year, distilled overviews of the presentations will be provided in Prepared Foods magazine. The following are a few expected presentations and speakers as this issue goes to print. For more information on a presentation, please refer to the contact information at the end of each summary.--Eds.
Communicating with MarketingNew product initiatives are hard work from the start; some have even compared it to an arranged marriage! Lack of communication and different lingos and goals between functions responsible for new product development are common. Experienced advice on this topic was provided by Heather Dupre, president, Egg Strategy, and Judy Lindsey, vice president/general manager of Product Dynamics, a division of RQA Inc. (Darien, Ill.). Both companies are a part of MarketBridge Solutions™, a partnership providing new product and new brand development services from ideation through post-market evaluations.
The experts advised that members of cross-functional product development teams work toward the same goal by creating a project map that all agree to follow; all members should have input into the plan so that it is accepted and makes the team stronger. As the project progresses, it becomes the team members' responsibility to make sure the project's goal is supported and communicated throughout the organization.
Obtaining approval of progress at each stage minimizes the potential for politics to get in the way. It is important that everyone on the team communicates both positive and negative news, and that they each understand the project impact of their “news.” Additionally, it is important to have a balance between consumer insight and market data--between logical thinking and gut instinct.
The middle stages of a project are challenging because the initial excitement wears off, and unforeseen complications arise. At this point, managers should assess whether new resources or skills are necessary to keep the project on track, and whether they have enough funding. Everyone on the team needs to assess how he stands in terms of reaching his goals. If a member has an objection and believes that the course of action is not in line with the team's goal, that member must speak up. The team then needs to examine what realistically is doable and what is not.
If the goal is unattainable, it is important to praise team members for their hard work, to focus on what lessons can be learned, and then to move on. If the project is successful, praise is important, as is keeping team members involved in the post-launch, as they are the most expert at spotting and correcting any issues. Also, it is a good idea to have a regular series of progress reports sent to all team members during the first year of the product launch, so that team members continue to feel valued and have the opportunity to suggest responses to trends and possible improvements. Keeping the lines of communication open from idea to launch and beyond benefits the company, the project and the individual on the team.
“The Sometimes Strange or Often Strained 'Arranged Marriage' of Marketing and R&D,” Heather Dupre, Egg Strategy, firstname.lastname@example.org; Judy Lindsey, Product Dynamics, email@example.com; www.rqa-inc.com.
Software AssistanceMoving beyond communications to tools of the trade, Ted Pliakos, vice president sales, Advanced Software Designs (Chesterfield, Mo.), discussed “Using New Product Development Software (NPD) to Accelerate New Product Development.” Pliakos said all product development teams pursue the same goal: product differentiation in order to have a sustainable competitive advantage. In this endeavor, NPD software becomes the weapon of choice.
New product development challenges include external factors such as product proliferation, consumer awareness, fast-moving consumer trends and changing government regulations. Infrastructure (internal) challenges also arise from the constant need to innovate aggressively and launch new products while, at the same time, ensure projects are done correctly in both composition and regulatory aspects.
NPD software, which integrates data previously housed in multiple systems and provides for sharing of data between functions, allows an organization to harness existing knowledge; develop new products in a structured, collaborative environment; and ultimately shorten the product development cycle to gain a competitive edge.
Increased speed to market is critical for products with a limited market lifespan. A product designed quickly to meet current market conditions reduces the odds that market conditions will change dramatically during the development stage.
Additionally, NPD software can increase productivity and cost savings. For example, user-friendly data query capabilities makes it easier to leverage earlier efforts when beginning a project. Starting recipes of products with similar requirements can be quickly found, copied and used in the new project. This benefit is magnified in a global environment, where all recipes worldwide may be searched.
Besides recipes, a centralized product development database eliminates effort duplication by maintaining other product information such as costs, characteristics, specifications and development status in one place. NPD software helps enforce consistent product development procedures and policies, eliminating confusion and lost time working “against” the process. For example, the regulatory status (e.g., kosher, GMO, allergen) of a new product can be checked in development, so that changes are made before a time-consuming approval process is initiated with the product formulation being rejected.
With an integrated project tracking and approval workflow systems, NPD software can determine where a process is held up. And, by providing an audit trail for changes in an item, time is saved searching to find what changed in a recipe, by whom, when and why.
Integrated tools for information such as Nutrition Labels, Ingredient Declarations, Product Data Sheets, kosher, allergen and GMO status reduce time to prepare this information. If documents were entered previously, they may be instantly available when a recipe is created. NPD software can release R&D staffs from tedious and non-productive activities that increase employee satisfaction and lead to more satisfied customers.
“Using New Product Development Software (NPD) to Accelerate New Product Development,” Ted Pliakos, Advanced Software Designs, tpliakos@ asdsoftware.com, www.asdsoftware.com.
Encapsulation Favors FlaFlavor can be among the most valuable ingredients in any food formula.
“Preserving and protecting flavor volatiles often is a main concern for food manufacturers and flavor chemists,” said George Ennis, vice president-chief flavor chemist, David Michael and Co. (Philadelphia), in a speech entitled “Microencapsulation of Flavor.”
Flavor encapsulation is the process by which one or mixtures of essential flavor compounds are entrapped within another material or system. Scientists may consider flavor encapsulation to gain advantages such as retaining the aroma in a food product during processing and storage, protecting the flavor from undesirable interactions with the food, guarding against light-induced reactions, protecting flavors against oxidation and controlling flavor release.
During encapsulation, components of flavor are converted from liquid to a solid state. Encapsulation helps provide a controlled release of the flavor, improves stability, improves flowability, reduces dusting and also separates incompatible ingredients.
Microencapsulation can be used in a number of applications, including bakery items, chewing gums, beverages and teas, and can effectively release functional ingredients, as well as mask undesirable flavors. The flavor particles are released in a number of ways, including dissolution in water, shear, chewing and chemical or enzymatic reactions.
“Flavor loss during the baking process has daunted master bakers for ages. Microencapsulated flavor delivers a thermally controlled release of flavor in baked goods, which reduces the amount of volatile compounds lost during the baking cycle,” said Ennis. Encapsulation increases the flavor load by as much as 100% when compared to spray-dried methods, he said.
“Microencapsulation of Flavor,” George Ennis, David Michael & Co., firstname.lastname@example.org, www.dmflavors.com.